CHAPTER 2: Inertia
"You'd been following me all night, hadn't you?" Nick finally asked LaCroix once they'd been back in the large, dark living room of the house for a good, long while. Sunrise was fast approaching but the curtains were thick enough to rival the black-out curtains used in the war; they would keep the room dark and isolated long after the sun rose to its peak.
"Of course," LaCroix nodded unashamedly.
"Any particular reason why?"
"You mean aside from the dangerously catatonic state of inertia you've been exhibiting lately which could've lead to your discovery on more than one occasion tonight?" he shrugged, "None whatsoever."
Nick quietly scoffed and avoided eye contact with LaCroix as the man continued, "You are distressed, and you shouldn't have gone outside without my knowledge."
"Nothing happened," Nick replied.
"Oh, what would've happened if one of those cars had actually hit you? You just get up and walk away without anyone asking any questions? Or, what if you'd got shot in full view of your little audience and found that some were resistors? You never think things through, do you? Do you have any idea what the Enforcers would do to you if…"
"I know, I get it, I do…I just couldn't stay inside anymore…"
"Was your constant brooding beginning to bore you?" LaCroix asked sarcastically, earning a scowl from his son. "I've told you before that your guilt will lead to destruction."
"Yeah," the younger vampire nodded meekly.
"You need to let it go."
"How can I?" Nick snapped harshly.
"Knowing you, it will be through a very a slow, laborious possess, hampered by unnecessary difficulty...but you can move on. However, if you begin abstaining from human blood once more, your hunger will build up and you will kill again…and you won't be able to stop yourself."
"…I tried…" Nick whimpered.
"I know," LaCroix replied with unusual sympathy he refrained from saying 'I told you so', since this was hardly the appropriate moment. He started to unbutton the top of his black shirt, "You need to feed," he told Nick, who froze where he sat.
It had been many a year since Nick could remember making the conscious decision to feed from his vampire master and he'd made a vow never to do so again. Being offered the chance to once again taste the blood of one's maker was not something any vampire could easily turn down; male, female, adult or child, young vampire or old vampire, if there was one thing more tempting than human blood it was the blood of one's maker. It could aid healing remarkably faster than human blood, it could calm the new-born hunger for a time thus allowing one to think clearly, and it served to greatly strengthen the bond between master and child. The latter was the main reason Nick had sworn off it; he had spent years trying to leave LaCroix behind him but a single drop of his blood would undo a century and more of Nick's hard work.
He turned away from LaCroix and stared instead at the grand piano; a beautiful piece in shining black, illuminated by the faint candlelight. Usually in the presence of such a stately piece he would hear the keys insistently calling out to be played, but now all Nick could think of was the blood pulsing through his master's veins and how much he wanted it.
There seemed little point in trying to keep his distance from his master with everything that had happened in the last year or so; he was forced to admit that his father did actually care for him, and that he cared for his father. How could he still try and maintain that distance when he needed LaCroix more than ever?
All the years of starvation he'd forced upon himself, sated in part only by animal blood, seemed like a punishment in comparison to what LaCroix was offering him. But it would mean facing up to the fact that everything he'd been striving for was now meaningless, worthless and a complete waste of a century. Was that such a bad thing though? After all, he was no closer to being mortal then he had been since the night he had been brought across. Jeanette had told him that his quest was the right path to take…right before she had died, that was. How could she choose to die as a mortal rather than to live as a vampire? Never would Nick have expected her to do anything like that.
The vampire in him was telling him that it was better to live with eternal night than to die, he wanted to live; life was too precious, it was a gift not to be squandered. Perhaps it was truly better to resign himself to being a vampire for all time; it wasn't like he hadn't saved lives thanks to his abilities, abilities he wouldn't have as a mortal. And if he took up the chance to help people again here as a police officer he could save more lives taking risks that mortals couldn't take without fatal consequences.
Did being a vampire truly mean such a hated existence to him? He had proven that he didn't have to kill every night; he didn't have to be a monster all the time, and when it came down to it, could he really give up all of the abilities that came with being a vampire if he had the option? Nick wasn't entirely sure anymore. When he had no one human left to share his life with what was the point in wanting to grow old and die?
"Nicholas," LaCroix said, dragging Nick back from his chaotic thoughts. He could sense his child's unnecessary distress, but Nicholas always did like to overcomplicate things. LaCroix was trying to help his son and that same son was making things worse by stalling and thinking himself into an early grave.
Over all of his years, and with the many vampires he'd brought across, LaCroix had found that the blood of one's master would soothe the child - which was his aim now if Nick would only let him.
"No, no I can't," Nick said after a minute. He continued to repress the voice in his head, getting louder and louder, screaming and shouting at him to simply take his master's blood.
"I will order you if I must," LaCroix replied, "We both know it is for the best," he added. Nicholas never seemed to ask him why LaCroix had always used to offer him his throat back when they had been close, rather than his wrist like he had with Janette. In fact, Nick had hardly, if ever, seen anyone feed from LaCroix's neck, except himself on rare occasion.
Nick shook his head again as the blood filled vein in his master's neck continued to draw his attention, mocking his self-control it offered a way out of his emotional turmoil…it was difficult to go on refusing like this. He felt his fangs descend and his eyes shone green as LaCroix walked across to where he sat.
"Please leave," Nick said.
"Why must you always make things so difficult, Nicholas?" the older vampire asked his son as he took a seat on the sofa next to Nick, whose control, he sensed, was quickly diminishing.
LaCroix made a small incision on his wrist with his fangs and held out the bleeding limb to Nick. "Do not continue to deny what you are; it will not end well," he told his son earnestly. "Time for a new start; let's make this one work, shall we?"
"What'd you…" Nick started to ask, but the second he both heard and felt a drop of LaCroix's blood hit the fabric of the sofa he lost his voice. He remained still, clutching the sofa and digging his nails into his palms as he did so with painful vampiric strength.
After a moment of stillness Nick moved his gaze to stare at the blood collecting at LaCroix's wrist and he couldn't find it in himself to deny his hunger any longer. When it became unbearable, Nick quickly dragged his master's wrist to his lips and drank deeply from the small wound. But it wasn't enough, and so he moved to his master's neck and drank even more hungrily.
It wasn't long before he could feel LaCroix's self-assuredness and overwhelming confidence as though it were his own; suddenly his fears seemed irrelevant as the blood swiftly travelled down his throat. It was as though he was no longer himself, he was no longer Nick or even LaCroix; he was the proud General Lucius returned after a bloody battle, in glorious victory to Pompeii - to splendour and ceremony.
This wasn't something Nick had ever seen in all of the times he'd fed from LaCroix in the distant past, this had never happened before; he'd never seen into his master's past, especially since the man was so reticent about the subject. Was this an intrusion on his part, or was it simply a mistake?
Nick watched as Vesuvius erupted through the eyes of LaCroix, who fled with his daughter to the hills where they heard the dying cries of the people below. They watched as the world burned and Nick felt LaCroix's new-born hunger as his own; he could smell the blood of the dying mixed with the foul air, polluted by the ash of the infamous volcano through his masters senses.
He could watch no further; feeling that he was encroaching on LaCroix's memories, Nick pulled away from his throat with an iron willpower he didn't know he still possessed and looked directly at the former Roman General.
"What did you see?" LaCroix asked, guessing that it was something of a shocking nature to tear Nicholas away from his blood so abruptly.
"Pompeii," Nick answered, "...Vesuvius…Divia…"
"Ah, I apologise, it's sometimes difficult to repress old memories...as I'm sure you know."
"But it's never happened before."
"Do you recall the last time I fed you like this? You were a new-born, it's far easier to keep memories from a new-born who had no restraint, than it is to hide them from one who has amassed almost 800 years," LaCroix told him.
"So...why did I see that now?"
"Perhaps you wanted to see it," he suggested.
Nick was about to question his master's meaning but refrained from doing so; he believed he understood. Since he had been thinking about how close he had been to LaCroix in the last year before feeding from him, perhaps he had seen into the vampire's past because he wanted to trust LaCroix this time, he didn't want any further secrets or lies between them if he was going to start a new life. It would be difficult, especially since he'd left so much behind and lost so much, but Nick would never forget the friends he'd found in Toronto.
But it was time to move on; and trusting LaCroix would be necessary if he were to do so. If all he had left was his 'closest friend' he wanted to make things work out, he didn't want to be alone again; LaCroix wanted his company and he wanted to be in LaCroix's company – it wasn't complicated.
"And perhaps I let you," Nick heard LaCroix say after a minute, and he turned his attention to the marks in his master's neck which were still stained red with blood; the wounds still open he watched as the blood trickled down down LaCroix's neck, staining the open collar of his shirt.
Nick wanted more of LaCroix's blood; he wanted to feel safe again, he wanted to feel confident and guiltless once more. But the rational side of his mind told him that he didn't need anymore, so he turned away. "As you wish," LaCroix shrugged and stood up.
"Thank you," Nick managed to say, still without turning to look at his master who was placing his fingers in the open wounds to heal them. "So...err...what was with the 'nephew' thing earlier, anyway?"
"Well, I could hardly inform them that you're my son, now could I? I don't appear any where near old enough for that," LaCroix scoffed.
"Right...so that makes me your nephew?"
"It's close enough, isn't it?"
"I guess," Nick sighed, and could think of nothing further to say.
"Police work again then, is it?" the old vampire asked after a while.
"No, I don't think it's a good idea...not again."
"Isn't it obvious?"
"Don't try and lie to me, Nicholas, it is what you want. And if you want it so badly, go and do it, or find something else to do before you destroy yourself," LaCroix implored.
"Alright, alright, I'll work on it," Nick sighed and leaned back into the sofa, "What about you? What are you gonna do...are you going to look for a job too?"
"I already have a sufficient distraction," he replied.
"I run a nightclub," LaCroix answered.
"You got another club?" Nick repeated, "I thought we'd only been here a month!"
"Yes," he replied, "It's rather unusual, but I found I rather enjoyed the job; it was surprisingly entertaining...and it is relatively easy to tempt mortals with enough monetary favour," he informed his son with a strange look of disdain.
"...The mighty General choosing to keep a nightclub...again... I wouldn't worry, LaCroix, I'm sure your reputation will survive," Nick replied with utmost seriousness, but a betraying smile plucking at his lips. "So...what's it called?"
"Blue Moon," his master answered.
"And...do vampires err..." Nick began, not needing to finish the sentence he let LaCroix speak.
"They do now," he replied impassively.
"Uh-huh," Nick nodded with a smile, and all was silent as both vampires looked at the old clock on the wall to see that it was moments past sunrise.
"Well, Nicholas...another sunrise..." LaCroix sighed and stood up, "Good day," he added and walked to the doors.
"LaCroix..." Nick called, and LaCroix stopped. "The club thing...are you doing it as some kind of last wish for Janette?"
"...Really, Nicholas," the old vampire weakly scoffed and walked away, hiding from his son the momentary look of guilt on his pale face.
As he lay awake that morning, trying to sleep, Nick thought back to his last night in Toronto, of his murdering the woman he loved and trusted inexplicitly, then of his asking his master and closest friend to kill him…and then of total darkness. There was no thought, no sensation, so sight or sound or smell…and then suddenly…there had been light…there had been hunger…he was no longer dead. How, he didn't know…all he did know, was that he could hear again…he heard a clock ticking, he heard the wind outside…he heard rustling fabric around him when he tried to move. So it was true…he wasn't dead…LaCroix hadn't killed him.
He'd hardly believed it at first; his master had let him live…it was remarkable...It was cruel, Nick had wanted nothing more than to see Natalie and even Schanke in the next life, but LaCroix would deny him even that. For a while he'd hated LaCroix; why couldn't the man just let him die?
But he'd come to realise that it hadn't been done out of spite, it had been done…or not done, rather, because LaCroix cared about him. LaCroix had fed him repeatedly. He couldn't remember the last time that had happened.
And what was more surprising was the fact that that same LaCroix had brought a nightclub and was using it like the Raven, even though he had no obligation. The first club he'd 'looked after' for Janette, this one he'd spent his own (substantial) funds on buying. Nick had though that LaCroix had lost the ability to surprise him many a century ago...but clearly he had been wrong...about a lot of things, it seemed.
In his room he'd found the things he'd collected with him throughout the centuries here with him. Everything he'd thought he'd left back in Toronto was here in London...had LaCroix had his things brought over? His master had always told him not to get attached to objects; that it was a bad idea and could lead to trouble. And yet, there again was that ability to surprise him. Did LaCroix only do it to prove Nick wrong?
No, perhaps he was over thinking the issue; it was late and he was tired, that was all. He continued to toss and turn in the soft bed, and somewhere around mid morning, Nick finally closed his eyes and slept.
LaCroix was sat at the desk in his dark room, it was lit by a handful of candles which flickered in the air. He stared at the antiquated painting of Janette which he hadn't been able to leave behind. The old oil paints, even used by a great master, hadn't been able to capture all of her enticing beauty. It was almost an insult.
It was a cruel irony, that she had been the one to obtain humanity and then refuse to give it up. But life was full of cruelty. LaCroix knew, and Janette had known, that Nicholas had always been, and would always be his favourite. But she was independent enough to live with that, she had been strong enough to accept it. He liked to think that she had inherited his strength, but she had been strong willed even as a mortal; one needed to be to survive a life like hers.
If it had been a choice of saving one or the other, both he and Janette knew who he would choose. That's not to say it wouldn't be difficult. He had many more years with Janette, who'd stayed loyal since the night she was turned, rather than with Nicholas who had always had doubts and the frequent need to voice them. He'd liked Janette, he liked her strength of will and her independence, she knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it.
LaCroix, like many old vampires, had brought across many over the years, but it was only ever Nicholas and Janette whom he'd kept close; his favourites...one of whom was now dead. Unlike Divia, he would miss Janette, but there was nothing he could do to bring her back, he had to focus on Nicholas. The younger vampire had enough problems to deal with and he was not going to make this easy.